Last month I attended SES in San Francisco and saw some great presentations, as always covering the ever-changing world of search. Having recently launched a content marketing agency, the session that stood out to me the most was the convergence of search, social and content marketing – with some great presentations from Chris Winfield and Arnie Kuenn.
Search, Social & Content Has Merged into a Single Process
I’ve recently written about how to transition of a team from SEO into content marketing - and in my opinion, the best content marketing teams merge all things search, social, CRO, PR, paid media etc into a single team.
These days, if all you focus on is SEO, you’re probably not actually that good at it. That’s because you’re missing the point that you need to acquire high-quality, natural links, create a social buzz/awareness, reach a targeted audience, and convert those into customers/leads.
The Best Teams are Integrated & Work Together
You’ll often find the best in-house teams and agencies will have a mix of all of these skills – SEO, social, PPC, CRO, etc.
Even in content marketing, you have to break down the silos. When we started delivering content marketing projects, our approach was to break projects into three key deliverables:
- Content Auditing and Strategy
- Content Development
- Blogger Outreach and Social Promotion
In theory this works very well and means you can tackle each key section of a project with a specialist in each area. But we quickly realized we were making a mistake in efficiencies of managing the process and getting the best results.
The single biggest lesson we’ve learned, is that it’s not quite as simple as that. These are all very important parts of any content marketing project, but they need to work together much more closely.
Otherwise, once you’ve done your content strategy and developed your content and you’re ready to move onto outreach as the last step, what happens if no one really likes your content or idea in the first place?
So we’ve found that if we all work together on a project from day one, we can make sure that we can ensure the blogger outreach specialists and content developers are just as involved in the early stages as the content strategists. Making everything a much smoother process all-round, removing the margin for error further down the line when it comes to promotion and outreach.
So what skills do you need in a content marketing team?
1. Content Auditing & Strategy
There's a range of different types of skill sets you need in order to get the best results. This is likely to include all of the following:
- Content audit: Reviewing your existing content, what types of content do you have, what topics do they cover and what goals do they achieve. You should apply your new checklist here to see if your content is still good enough to remain active. Being just as selective here as if it was newly created - it's a great time for a clean-up!
- Competitor and marketplace analysis: Now you have a full audit on what content you have available, what are your competitors doing? Find out what the hot topics are within your market or industry and make sure to cover everything your customers are interested in.
- Brainstorming content ideas: What gaps do you have in your content? What are you missing that your users and customers want to see? What do you have that they want to see more of? How can you mix up your content into different types/channels (e.g., in-depth articles, videos, infographics, social media audiences, etc.).
- Research tools: You need to research your plan of attack, so make sure you've got all the tools that can help you on the way. Google AdWords is obviously a good start for keyword research, but don't just leave it there - use UberSuggest for a wider range of suggestions, Google Trends for seasonality, the SEOgadget content strategy tool for more topical ideas and sites like TweetMeme to keep an eye on what is popular on social media to trigger new ideas for content people are interested in sharing.
- Build an editorial calendar: Once you've done all of the above, you are well set towards getting started with enacting your content strategy. For this the most important step is to form a seasonal editorial calendar based around your customer's interests and goals. That way you've got a clear plan of what content you're going to create and when you're going to do it. Setting deadlines on this makes it much easier for everyone involved – it gets the writers/designers on track with what they need to produce and gives the community manager and social media marketers a clear idea on when it is going to be delivered, so that they can plan their publishing schedule and promotion around this.
- Community management: Finally, once you have all of this in place, you need to make sure you have structure in your content strategy. Content marketing isn't about just promoting a one-off infographic, you need a clear 6-12 month plan which you can build into your editorial calendar. So taking seasonality, events into account, put someone in charge of owning your content – that way they can schedule publishing, manage blog/forum/social media comments, edit content and accept or reject content based on your checklist and brand guidelines.
2. Content Development
- Writers and Bloggers: Behind every good content strategy is a great writer and in SEO especially, authorship is being incredibly important. Google is now trusting the author of the content as highly as it does the actual content and the site that it is written on. So if authorship is becoming a measure of trust, it's important that you have great writers.
What is a great writer? In this sense, it's not someone who is grammatically flawless - that can't be a bad thing - but here were talking about writing which can generate a buzz. Writers who know how to target and engage with audiences, spark discussion or even controversy. And more importantly, stand out as knowledgeable by building a reputation with their niche. If you are considered a thought leader on the topic of African Safaris, for example, I want you writing on my African Safari website!
So in this sense, we look to hire great writers who can specialise within a niche. If you can write the best content on the web within your industry, there’s a great chance you'll win. Plus you'll save a huge amount of money compared to the paid advertising alternative method of getting there. So my advice would be to hire the best writer you can within your industry or sector and get them fully involved within your content strategy.
- Creative designers and video producers: The exact same for writers applies to creative designers and video producers. I would definitely recommend mixing up the type of content you create for your readers. Some people prefer in-depth articles, while others will prefer videos or infographics, for example.
So try to keep it interesting for your audience – and be creative. Don’t be afraid to attempt ideas that might fail, as long as it doesn’t risk your brand, and at worst you’ve just learnt a new type of content that your audience doesn’t like.
But if you keep pushing to be creative and on top of your game, you’re more likely than not to see some great results – so definitely mix it up!
3. Blogger Outreach & Social Media Specialists
- Blogger Outreach: Surprisingly this is often the stage that can be overlooked. In an age where all brands are now facing to the fact that they have to become a publisher in order to compete online - they still don't quite get the importance of promotion.
Content is king, as they say - and you're not going to get very far at all with average, or even good, content. But even if your website has the best content in the world - if nobody sees it, who really cares? Google certainly doesn't. Their algorithm rewards content which not only is very good - but it's also trusted by generating authoritative links, social media shares and online buzz.
So the blogger outreach role is vital. You need to give your content a push in order to make sure it's maximizing potential. That means building an audience, partnering with industry leaders to promote each other, connecting with key influencers both online and off to build valuable relationships - and making sure that you've done everything possible that when you've got a great piece of content that you want to promote, you've got an email list full of key contacts that can be ready to help you out. As long as you remember it goes both ways.
- Social media promotion: Social media will certainly pay a key role here too – which is why we look to ensure we can play a key role in building social profiles with our clients, ensuring they are active within the community and building an audience with key influencers.
But don’t just leave it at brand profiles – get your team and writers involved too. You’re likely to have much better results if you can build personal relationships with key influencers. Especially if you’re a big brand, you have a great advantage here – you have lots of people you can leverage!
The Whole Must be Greater Than the Sum of All Parts
The game is continually evolving – this is type of skillsets I’ve found to be most important in our content marketing campaigns to date. But test what works with your audience, everyone is different and those who can be creative and push the boundaries by doing something new are normally those who stand out and are rewarded as a result.
And make sure you’re working together as a team to get the best results – you can have the best content strategy, content development or blogger outreach/social promotion techniques out there, but the important thing is making sure that the whole is great than the sum of all parts.